Northshore Magazine

Northshore March 2019

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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NORTHSHOREMAG.COM 52 MARCH 2019 CONTACT, fish farms commercially, using a larger pen this summer, and they are getting inter- est from as far away as the tiny Caribbean island of Bonaire. Steelhead trout seem like a surprising choice for New England farming. Native to the West Coast, they are essentially the same species as rainbow trout, except rainbows are freshwater fish, whereas steel- heads, like their cousin the salmon, move from fresh water to saltwater. Sea Grant's Chambers found that steelhead adapt well to an exclusively saltwater environment, and grow faster than some native species like cod and halibut, making them a better option for commercial operators. The steelheads are grown in a 10-foot- deep floating pen, a few minutes off the coast by dingy, that holds about two tons of fish. What makes the project truly unique are the pen's other crops: six tons of mussels and a ton of kelp, both of which consume fish waste, keeping it from polluting the ocean. The process has a very complicated name— integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, also known as IMTA—but it's really quite simple, emphasizing ecosystem management, where fish or shrimp are farmed next to species that can extract excessive nutrients from the water. "We grow mussels and kelp to help create a better growing environment," Sewall explains. Each helps remove nitrogen from the water, and the mussels also consume or- ganisms that might cause disease in the fish. Right now, the mussels are destined for Sea Grant research and the seaweed is be- ing used, rather surprisingly and with good results, for beer in UNH's brewing courses. Sewall has explored other uses for seaweed, but he keeps running into one stumbling block. "The problem with seaweed is it tastes like seaweed," he says with a laugh. Seaweed may never become a big cash crop, but Sewall sees this as a great way to sustain our coastal fishing industry. "There is more pressure put on fishermen every year ; quotas go down, restrictions get tougher, and there seem to be less fish to catch," Sewall says. "My goal would be to help fishermen learn how to grow seafood in an IMTA system so the next generation of fisher- man can make a living from the ocean while putting less pressure on wild stocks. If a fish- erman can make a living catching some wild fish and earn supplemental income through aquaculture, it would be a great place for both industries to be." In Sewall's ideal world, these pens would dot the coast of the North Shore. And con- sumers would be lining up for super-fresh fish, grown locally. "Not all fish farming is bad," Sewall says, likening it to growing produce. " You can buy a carrot from your farmers' market, with beautiful greens still attached and a bit of dirt still clinging to it, or you can buy a carrot from Walmart." Michael Chambers is a research scientist in the program. The fish are weighed before they are shipped to the restaurants. L I V E + P L AY

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